Sometimes you gotta sacrifice a single sheep to save the rest.
The Salvation is directed by Kristian Levring and Levring co-writes the screenplay with Anders Thomas Jensen. It stars Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Jonathan Pryce and Douglas Henshall. Music is by Kasper Winding and cinematography by Jens Schlosser.
1871 and ex-patriot Danish soldier Jon Jensen (Mikkelsen) is, after 7 years of foundation building, welcoming his wife and son to a new life in America. But after they all board a stagecoach bound for their homestead, events will see that journey not be completed. And thus begins a tale of retribution and redemption.
There are few smiles in The Salvation, in fact viewers will need to grab onto the sparse offerings of such very early in the piece. For it's a film of blood, brooding and misery, of intensity and a paucity of the good side of human nature. Levring has managed to successfully blend the traditions of the American Western with the feel of the Euro Spaghetti Oaters. There is so much for Western fans to enjoy here. It's a classic revenger pumped by a good versus bad heart, yet as pared down and as simple as the story may at first seem, there's interesting asides of worth.
The issue of Euro immigrants trying to make it in the Wild West is noteworthy, while there's a delicious juxtaposition between two soldiers from different continents, and different wars. Jensen fought the Germans in Europe, while his nemesis, Henry Delarue (Morgan), has been through the Indian wars. A most interesting comparison, one where the characterisations are vividly opposed to each other. Add in a good old town in the grip of a tyrant theme, and a bit of carnal desires upon thine brother's spouse, and it's a spicy hot pot.
Filmed at dusty South African locations, there's a scenic beauty surrounding the harsh story. Westerns don't have to be filmed in America to look authentic, and this is a case in point. The town of Black Creek has been called fake looking in some quarters, not so. This is a new up-coming town, it's meant to be wooden and sparse. Hell! The saloon is also the local store, the mayor is also the undertaker, this is a basic Wild West town without frills and fancy.
Elsewhere the costuming is splendid, especially Morgan who is nicely dapper in black hat and crimson mack, and there's a whole host of face fuzz on show, which is needed to keep up the whole mud and blood, hard West factor. Levring has an eye for a nice shot, such as a full moon bearing witness, even a traditional slow-mo piece. All that said, irks do exist, Green's character is sketchily drawn, but she's playing a heaving bosom mute (her tongue was cut out by the pesky Indians), so scope for development is admittedly limited. While Winding's score is a bit too modern sounding for the key shoot-out sequences.
Ultimately it's great to see the Western is still thriving in this day and age of CGI and blockbuster pandering. From the shattering and moody first quarter to the bloody and excellently staged finale, The Salvation keeps the Western genre well and truly alive. 9/10